Interview | Chris Spring
Aussie athlete Chris Spring has taken a hugely unusual route to becoming a triple Winter Olympian; born in Darwin, Australia (an area not known for it’s winter sport facilities!) Chris didn’t step foot on an athletics track until his teens. In 2006, a 23yr old Chris made the move to Canada on a one-year visa and fell so in love with the country he decided to make his move permanent; whilst there he stumbled across an old bobsleigh track and fancied giving it a go… within 3 years he was representing Australia at the World Championships, and the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
In the spring of 2013, Chris switched to the Canadian team (with whom he had been training and who had been helping him with equipment whilst representing Australia) and has since represented his adopted homeland at the 2014 & 2018 Winter Games.
We stole a few moments with Chris to find out how he has fueled his career at the elite end of bobsleigh over the last 10 years…
Chris, thank you for taking some time to chat with us; can you tell me what you tend to rely on ahead of competing? “a pre race routine is something that should start with the meal the night before the race. Unfortunately for me, our meals are all catered for while we are on tour. 90% of the time we stay in hotels in Europe and the hotel restaurant makes us breakfast lunch and dinner.
And we don't get a choice of what we get served. Half the time there is a protein, a carb and some salad and so that usually does the trick. But sometimes the options are pretty thin. I remember being served Hot dog soup for a meal the night before a race in Austria. So as important as it is to get a good meal in the night before, it's not the be all end all, cos I've won medals on hot dog soup before”.
How close to competing do you eat, are you eating or snacking right up until you’re ready to start? “I can't eat too close to the race. I usually try and have the last thing I eat about 3 hours before show time. Again our meals are not chosen, they are given to us. However, even though I can't always choose what I eat, I do choose not to eat too much. Racing on a full stomach isn't fun”.
So what do you have post-race? “Post race I try and get in as much food as possible. At 5'11" and 218lbs, this is my race weight and this puts me as the smallest guy on the Canadian bobsled team and one of the smaller guys in the sport. So for me, there's never a thing as too many calories. Pizza is a tasty and high calorie post race meal that I absolutely love”.
Does your diet change much between off & on season, or do you have to watch what you eat “As I mentioned before, I'm a small guy (in the bobsled world) and so when I'm on vacation or it's the off season I must continue to consume calories. It's not uncommon for me to drop 10lbs within a month after the competitive season because I just forget to eat as much as I need to”.
Do you eat or consume much at the gym? Do you always have a protein shake or bar close-by? “Similar to a race, I dislike training on a full stomach. No matter how long the training session, I can't stomach food but I make sure I'm hydrating, taking in electrolytes and BCAAS amongst other supplements to keep the body going”.
Something that has come up a lot when talking to athletes, is the importance of hydration - do you find it a key factor in your training & performance? “Hydration is key for all humans, active or sedentary. As an athlete I take hydration seriously. Its extremely important to help decrease the risk of injury”.
Max Lahiff (Pro rugby player here in the UK) came down to our studio and said sleep and nutrition are king for recovery, do you find the same? “There are many things that can help with recovery. Definitely sleep and nutrition are standouts. But i wouldn't count out extra activities and trying to decrease the extra stresses in your life. As a 3 x Olympian, I train full-time but I also need to pay bills so I work full time, except for the summer before an Olympic games. The gains I see in that summer I attribute to having less stresses in my life”.
Back to nutrition, what is the most common meal in your household? “The most common meal is my go to shake. It has 1 banana, handfull of spinach, 200g cottage cheese, 250g Greek yoghurt, 100ml egg whites, hemp hearts, chia seeds, psylium husk, tablespoon of olive oil, scoop of whey protein, almond milk. It's a meal!! As for calories. I can't get enough”.
And do you have a cheat meal? “A cheat recipe. Hmmm good question. I eat fairly healthy at home. I actually live in my van so there's no room for cheat food to be honest. My fridge is tiny and I'm usually buying groceries every 2nd or 3rd day. But if theres ice cream, I'm eating it. Any flavour, any kind. Get in my belly!!
Is there anything you actively try to avoid; either because you’re not a fan or have an allergy “There's a lot of dairy in my shake so I try not to eat too much dairy throughout the rest of the day. It just gets too much onnrhe stomach really”.
OK, last few questions around sport again; do you have a favourite place to compete in? “My most favourite place to.compete is St Moritz in Switzerland. It's the birth place of our sport and the only natural bobsled track left in the workd. The place is rich with history and the track starts in St Moritz and you zig zag your way on the longest track in the world through the forest, under a beautiful train bridge and end up in a completely different town called Celerina”.
In your career so far, what race stands out the most? “My first ever world cup medal is one of my most memorable races. It was late November in 2012 and only.my 3rd race back from a season ending crash that happened in January that year. The crash resulted in my having emergency surgery to help save my life and I wasn’t sure if I would ever return to the sport. To be able to come back 9 months later and win a medal on my home track in Whistler BC is a memory that will continue to inspire me to achieve my goals in the future”.
Last, last question… do you have any pre-race superstitions? Do you have to put on your right sock first? “I have a lot of quirky pre race superstitions. But the 3 most notable ones are:
I drink the same drink on race day whilst warming up. It's a scoop of creatine, a scoop of beta alinine, 1 scoop of rival-us powder burn (blue flavour), some water and a can of regular flavour red bull. Just the smell gets me fired up!
I kiss my helmet before I put it on and also when I take it off. In the same spot.
And lastly I say a German phrase just before I'm about to go. Wenn schon denn schon. It literally translates to if so, then so but more means, if you're gonna do it, then let's do it, no messing around”.